Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Stardate 62156.73 - Stupid Is as Stupid Does

I received an e-mail today from USAirways, stating:

"Today, US Airways announced a change to our baggage policy. Beginning May 5, 2008, we’ll charge $25 for a second checked bag. The new fee applies to travel on or after May 5 for tickets purchased on or after February 26, 2008.

We’re making these changes to offset record fuel prices and rising airline related expenses. We simply must make changes to the way we do business to provide all of you with the high level of service that you’ve come to expect from US Airways. Also, we’re doing all we can to keep fares low. With this policy change, we’re able to give you the choice to avoid the fee and pack fewer items. With fewer bags to process, we save both money and fuel and can pass that savings on to you."

How is this stupid? Let me count the ways:
  1. More people will carry on 2 items.
  2. People will now check bigger, heavier bags instead of 2 smaller bags.
First, overhead space is already minimal, because people bring a laptop bag along with the largest, heaviest piece of luggage they can currently cram into the overhead compartments. I've always checked as much luggage as possible so that I can put my laptop backpack in the overhead and keep the space at my feet clear. Now people like me will probably be carrying on more luggage, both filling up the overheads quicker as well as cramming luggage down at our feet. And with the narrow, tight-ass seats on planes these days I predict more aggravation and lower customer satisfaction (as if it could go any lower these days). ALSO, because to the first to board goes the overhead space, I predict more people rushing the gate as soon as boarding begins, instead of people waiting for their rows/group to be called. This situation is already rampant, creating a throng of people one must push through to get to the gate. Now it will be even worse as people jockey for position in order to get their huge bags into the limited overhead space.

Second, I don't see how they will have fewer bags to process. They are simply moving the problem from the cargo door to the passenger door. Now the hold-up will be either as passengers argue with the gate attendant as to what constitutes a "personal item", and/or waiting for passengers to struggle to fit their bags (which are usually large enough to hold a German Shepard) into the overhead. We will also have lots of delays as the flight attendants attempt to latch those doors with bags and handles and everything else hanging out of the compartments. I anticipate zero time savings.

Bottom Line: People are not going to pack less, they are simply going to carry on more. There will be zero savings due to weight (because there will be no reduction, bags will just be shuffled from the hold to the cabin), and zero savings due to time (because the delay is just being moved to the cabin). Even worse, this action will prompt other airlines to follow suit, ending pretty much in disaster. I predict more angry passengers as the limited space we have now at our feet is eliminated by more luggage.

USAirways - what brain trust came up with this plan?



wtfree3 said...

You're behind on being outraged, just like USAirways is. Other airlines have already announced similar plans. I received something from United with something similar last week, I believe.

And actually, the bigger bag already has a limit, as every airline already has weight limits before you have to pay. Welcome to the nickel & dime airways - already available across much of Europe.

BullBunky said...

The one bit of consolation I read from United was that their Premier customers would be exempt from that fee. Fingers crossed.